Unplugged

Today I completely disconnected from anything having to do with travel. It was, by intent, a time to do nothing but be present in a peaceful place, shedding every care and every concern.

My decompression is so profound that I swear I can hear it. I certainly feel it.

Our Thursday dawned chilly and clear. Once the sun had warmed the air a bit I sat outside in the quiet, gazing over the water and the pasture land beyond. Many of the smaller birds that were here in August have headed south, but this morning a great blue heron glided past me. I watched the aerobatics of a northern harrier as he fished the reservoir’s shallows.

Eventually Deb joined me. We brought out our binoculars and found the bald eagle that greeted us yesterday, perched high in a tree on the opposite shore. He sat there for an hour, surveying his hunting ground, before taking flight, circling and soaring away to the west. A magnificent sight.

Later we walked up to the camp store for the exercise and a cold drink. We sat at a picnic table and chatted a long time with our hosts, swapping stories and generally enjoying the beautiful day.

We’re looking forward to another vivid prairie sunset later, followed by a dazzling night sky.

At the risk of repeating what I posted some weeks ago, now that we’re back at this South Dakota campground I want to recap why it appeals to us. First, though, let’s get something straight — there’s nothing posh or luxurious about it. It’s conveniently off the Interstate, sure, but it’s isolated. The nearest real services are 25 miles away, and the closest town of any size (Pierre, the state capital) is over 80 miles away.

The park itself is, on its face, pretty ordinary. No patio sites, no pool, no hot tub, no mini-golf. The roads and pads (which are level and solid) are hard-packed gravel. Some sites feature small trees, adding a little shade to the prairie.

Utilities are perfect — good sewer hookups, strong water pressure and clean 50A power. There’s even a cable TV feed on each pedestal, bringing guests 24 analog channels. The WiFi signal is arguably the best we’ve seen, so strong that our phones started picking it up from the I-90 off-ramp a mile away.

Our site, by the way, is close to where we were before. This time it’s on the end of the row, giving us a big “yard” on both sides. We have the same view, but now we have more of it. Hands-down the best spot in the whole park.

What the campground lacks in mint-on-the-pillow amenities it makes up for in service. From the husband-and-wife owners to their crew of workampers, everyone is attentive and competent. They lead each guest to their site and help them get situated. Every morning they patrol the grounds in golf carts and pick up campers’ bagged trash. The place is clean and well cared-for.

Hard work and good old-fashioned American pride make an otherwise plain place inviting.

The camp store is small but well-stocked. Perhaps the most clever feature of the park, especially considering its isolation from dining options, is its “café” — call the campground phone number, place your order and, in a half-hour or so, a staffer delivers home-cooked food to your campsite.

The café features a full menu, from pizza to wings, subs to smoothies, salads and pasta and more. Everything we’ve ordered has been delicious, and the prices are reasonable.

And if a guest tips their delivery “driver,” all that money goes toward a camping-for-kids program. That’s pretty cool.

Finally, there’s the peaceful prairie setting, brilliant sunsets and a landscape teeming with wildlife.

This campground isn’t packed every night now like it was when we were here before. It’s that time of year. In fact, the park will close for the season just a few days after we leave, reopening in March.

We’re fortunate to have one more opportunity to spend time in this place.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

P.S.: Dipstick appears to have improved, if only slightly, in that he’s keeping both water and food down for the first time in three days. He’s still unwell, poor little guy. Fingers crossed.